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Myths Concerning Jainism and Hinduism Clarified
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Myths of Jainism and Hinduism Clarified

At the outset let me clarify that there is no intention to belittle or discredit any religion or philosophy. Neither any religion nor any groups are targeted in this article. Further we have no quarrel with our dear Hindu brothers with whom Jains share a special relationship. However, certain myths are being propagated by various people questioning the very independent existence of Jainism by claiming it as an offshoot of Hinduism. Such people, depending on their motivations, have given rise to various myths and falsehoods, which are analyzed and countered below.

Myth # 1 – Jainism was founded by Mahavira Swami.

The Truth- Jainism is an ancient religion that pre-dates lord Mahavira. Herman Kuhn an Indologist and translator of Tattvarthasutra says – "There exists evidence of twenty four enlightened teachers who taught identical knowledge at much earlier times.” According to Britannica Encyclopedia, Lord Parshvanatha, 23rd Jaina Tirthankara was a Historical figure who flourished in 8th Century BCE. (Ref : )

From the Buddhist and Jain records, it is clear that Jainism is older than Buddhism and was firmly established at the time of the origin of Buddhism. In the Samannaphala Sutta of the Dighanikaya, there is a reference to the four vows (Chaturyama Dharma) of Parshvanatha. Lord Neminath (22nd Tirthankar) and Lord Rushabh Nath (1st Tirthankar) are mentioned in various Vedas and Hindu Puranas. This proves that Mahavir Swami was a reformer and reviver of already existing Shraman traditions.

Myth # 2 – Jainism is a reactionary sect founded as a revolt against the Vedas and Brahminism.

The Truth- Jainism was (and is) against violence (e.g. vedic sacrifices) and casteism. There was no question of it being reactionary or revolt as vedic and shraman cultures had co-existed since ages. In fact Jain history suggests that Jainism was already an established religion when the vedic practices came into being. Furthermore, other ekantvadi i.e. one-sided philosophies are easily accommodated under Jaina multi-faceted philosophy of "Anekantavada.”

Myth # 3 – Jains are basically Hindus who have adopted a Jain way of Worship.

The Truth – The Worship is just a small part of Jaina philosophy. It is much more than way of worship, namely :-

    *      it has its own Gods worthy of worship - Tirthankars,
    *      separate set of rituals different from Hindus for e.g. Jains don’t believe in ritual of shraddh for ancestors,
    *      it has a totally different shastras and agamas. 

The philosophy of worship i.e. bhakti is also different. Bhakti in Hinduism believes in surrender to some higher entity, while bhakti in Jainism is merely instrumental in self-realisation. Emphasis is more on securing samyaktva i.e. rationality rather than ritualistic worship.

Myth # 4 – Jainism can be accommodated under the umbrella of Hinduism because Hinduism is a general religion and Jainism is a specific religion. Sanatan Dharma is a way of life and synonymous with Indian culture.

The Truth – There is no such thing as a general or specific religion. The word "Hindu" belongs to the category of words like "Muslim", "Christian", "Buddhist" and "Jain" and not to the category of words like "American", "British", "Indian", "Chinese" or "Japanese". Surprisingly, when Hinduism is compared with Islam or Christianity, it becomes a religion; but when it is compared with Jainism, it becomes "A way of Life", "Culture" and "Synonymous with Indianess" etc. What is to be realised is that, Hinduism is a religion based on the Vedic tradition, while Jainism and Buddhism are separate religions based on Sramanic tradition. Both of these traditions have co-existed side by side, influencing each other, and thus creating a great ancient Indian culture. Just as Hindus believe that theirs is a Sanatan Dharma, Jains believe that Jainism predates Lord Mahavira to Lord Rishabhdeva, the founder of not only Jainism, but entire human civilization.

Myth # 5 – Because of same culture, heritage, history, customs and land Jainism and Hinduism cannot be distinct from each other.

The Truth - Cultural similarity, linguistic similarity etc. does not discount the uniqueness and distinctness of a religion! Religion is philosophy based. Not based on ethnicity or a shared culture. Sure Jains have lots in common with Hindus. Jews, Christians and Muslims have lots in common too. They have a common cultural heritage, common linguistic group, common mythology, common prophets and a historical acceptance of each other's holy books. These three are Kitabi religions. They believe that God sent down three books, i.e. the Old Testament (Jews), the New Testament (Christians) and the Qu'ran (Muslims). But the Jews do not claim that Christians are Muslims are all Jews! If one were to think that Hindu and Indian mean one and same, then it is quite possible to say that Roman Catholic and Italian mean one and the same and Protestant and English mean one and the same.

Myth # 6 – Jainism has a better chance of survival within Hinduism rather than outside.

The Truth - As long as Jainism was clubbed with Hinduism, it got a raw deal having no separate recognition amongst the scholars. Also despite of general doctrinal tolerance in the Hindu tradition, history shows instances of persecution against Jains such as in Tamil Nadu in the 7th century, AD when Hindu Shaiva poets and teachers popularized the notion of Jains (or Samanars in Tamil) as villains opposed to the Shaiva creed. Hindu Saints like Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Dyayanand Saraswati led vitriolic attacks against Jain philosophy. Many Jain temples were destroyed and Jains killed.
Today, a concern of modern Jains in post-independence India has been the preservation of ancient pilgrimage sites and holy shrines which in recent decades have come under pressure from certain fundamentalist groups - in the case of Girnarji, Hindu devotees of the deity Dattatreya. Bhagavan Neminatha's charana were established at Girnarji for many thousands of years. Now, Hindus have taken over the 5th and the 3rd hill, thus wiping out extremely important Jain heritage from Gujarat

If Jainism is indeed a part of Hinduism, then....

   1.      Why is Jain Navkar Mantra not a part of the list of Hindu Prayers ?
   2.      Why is Mahavir Swami and other Jain Thirthankars not accepted as their Gods ?
   3.      Why is Parvyushan and Mahavir Jayanti not celebrated as festivals by Hindus?
   4.      Why are Jain sacred books not given equal status as Gita ? When you accept various version of Ramayana, then why not accept Jain version of Ramayana also?
   5.      Why is contribution of Jain saints from Gautam Swami to Hemchandra Acharya ignored by Hindus and not accepted as their saints?
   6.      Why subvert the actual History in the text books - that Chandragupta Maurya was a Jain. The Major Kings of that time were Jains or gave patronage to Jainism. But this is never mentiond in our History books. The likes of Murli Manohar Joshi have been tampering with history since Independence. 

Jainism and its contribution to India is routinely ignored by all. The simple fact is that those Hindus who are claiming that Jains are part of Hinduism have no respect for Jainism and its ideals. Unless Jainism maintains its separate identity it is likely to be wiped out after a few generations. Hence there is a great danger and threat to this religion as long as it is considered as a part of Hinduism.

Myth # 7 – Many Jains believe in Kuldevi’s, visit Hindu Temples, pray to Ganesha and celebrate Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali. This proves that Jainism is a sect of Hindusim.

The Truth – Concept of Kuldevis and praying to Gods like Ganesha who are not vitraag is not in conformity of Jain Philosophy. According to Jainism these deities have attachment and passions. Those Jains who worship them are doing it on their own accord and not according to instructions from Jain Scriptures or Jain Gurus. Now if a Hindu goes to Haji Ali Dargha for prayer or a Church, does it mean that Hinduism is a part of Islam or Christianity?

Jains celebrate Indian festivals along with Hindu neighbors on account of traditions and shared culture. Festivals like Diwali which is celebrated as Mahavira nirvana day have a different significance for Jains. Broad mindness of Jains should not be construed as a sign of weakness.

Myth # 8 – Jain Puranas mention stories of Rama and Krishna, who are Hindu Gods.

The Truth – Jain have their own version of Ramayana and Mahabharata based on Jain philosophy. According to Jain puranas, Rama and Lakshmana were the 8th Baldev (or Balbhadra) and Vasudev(or Narayana) and Balarama and Krishna were 9th Baldev and Vasudev. Rama and Krishna are not Avatar’s of Vishnu as per Jainism. Just as Hindus believe their version, Jains believe this version to be true.

This similarity of characters can be seen in other religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam also. According to the Principal book the Jews, Tenakh God's name is Jahveh and the Name of prophet Moses i.e Hazrat Musa. The Principal books of Christianity are the Old & the New Testaments where God's name is Jehovah and the prophet is Jesus i.e Hazrat Eisa. The Principal book Islam is the Qur'an where the God's name is Allah and the Prophet is Mohammed i.e Hazrat Mohammed. Islam considers both Hazrat Musa and Hazrat Eisa as prophets of God but considers Hazrat Mohammed to be the final prophet and the Qur'an to be the final word of God. Many of the characters occurring in their holy books are the same. So, why don't we consider these religions to be one?

Myth # 9 – The principles of truth, non-violence, moksha are the same for both Hindus and Jains.

The Truth – Other philosophies including Hinduism, believe their truth to be absolute. As per Anekantvad in Jainism the truth is relative and multisided. Non-violence in Jainism is ultimate – it encompasses even the minutest life forms. On the other hand in Hinduism, it is restricted to vegetarianism (that too under some castes) and cow protection. Concept of God is also different. Unlike Hinduism, Jainism does not believe God to be Creator, Operator and Destructor of Universe. Thus it can be seen that same terms connote different meanings in Hinduism and Jainism.

Myth # 10 – Marriage alliances between Hindus and Jains are common indicating that there is no difference between the two.

The Truth – In India, the caste and socio-economic factors play an important role in marriages. People prefer marrying their sons and daughters within same endogamous groups. It is quite possible that a particular endogamous group, which is dependent on the area and socio-economic class, may have the people from both the religions. Hence marriage between Hindus and Jains is quite possible.

Myth # 11 – It makes no difference whether one is called a Hindu or a Jain.

The Truth – It does make a lot of difference. If so are Hindus willing to be called Jains ? I dont think so. They do not accept Mahavir as their God not our Agamas even equal to Gita or Vedas. It is their prerogative.

It does matter to me as to what I am called or known as. Because it will also define our posterity. Just as Hindus proudly want to be called Hindus, We must take pride in our Jain identity.

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